Matthew Chapter 21:18-32

We continue on with the chapter. In the first section, we had the events that became immortalised as Palm Sunday, that ended with the Cleansing of the Temple. We pick the next morning, after Jesus and all spent the night in Bethany.

18 Πρωῒ δὲ ἐπανάγων εἰς τὴν πόλιν ἐπείνασεν.

19 καὶ ἰδὼν συκῆν μίαν ἐπὶ τῆς ὁδοῦ ἦλθεν ἐπ’ αὐτήν, καὶ οὐδὲν εὗρεν ἐν αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ φύλλα μόνον, καὶ λέγει αὐτῇ, Μηκέτι ἐκ σοῦ καρπὸς γένηται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. καὶ ἐξηράνθη παραχρῆμα ἡ συκῆ.

20 καὶ ἰδόντες οἱ μαθηταὶ ἐθαύμασαν λέγοντες, Πῶς παραχρῆμα ἐξηράνθη ἡ συκῆ;

21 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁἸησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν ἔχητε πίστιν καὶ μὴ διακριθῆτε, οὐ μόνον τὸ τῆς συκῆς ποιήσετε, ἀλλὰ κἂν τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ εἴπητε, Ἄρθητι καὶ βλήθητι εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν, γενήσεται:

22 καὶ πάντα ὅσα ἂν αἰτήσητε ἐν τῇ προσευχῇ πιστεύοντες λήμψεσθε.

It having become morning, arising he went into the city. (19) And seeing a solitary fig tree from the road, he went to it, and he found nothing on it if not leaves, and he said to it, “May never from you fruit become forever.” And the tree withered immediately. (20) Ands seeing the disciples were amazed, saying, “How did the fig tree wither immediately?” (21) Answering, Jesus said to them, “Amen I say to you, if you have faith and it is not decided against you, not only you will do of the fig tree, but also should you say to that mountain, ‘Get up and throw yourself into the sea’, it will happen. (22) And all so much as you ask in prayer believing, you will receive”.

There a number of problems with this. The story was in Mark, but Matthew has omitted a really significant detail. Mark tells us that there was no fruit on the tree because it was not the season for it. Presumably, the figs ripen later in the summer, or in the fall, like apples or peaches. But it’s Passover season, which is in the spring. Ergo, of course there was no fruit, and Mark told us exactly that: there was no fruit because it was not the season for it. Matthew seems to have forgotten that one very important detail. Now, presumably, one could figure it out if one knows that Passover is in the spring, but what if the audience is mostly pagan, and doesn’t know when Passover falls? In that case, one would come away with rather a different impression of what just went on. 

Of course the omission of the detail is likely not an accident; one suspects it was deliberate. Let’s face it, in Mark’s version Jesus comes off as something like petulant, a bit childish in a way, acting out by cursing the tree for doing what it’s supposed to do. Or, for blaming it for acting in the way it was designed to operate. If the audience hearing these words was largely pagan, and they didn’t know if Passover was in the season for figs, it would be a reasonable assumption that it was fig season; in which case, the tree could be assumed to be barren, so there is no great loss when it withers. In this case, Jesus is only performing some prudent horticultural chore, removing a barren tree.

One other thing just occurred to me. Mark told us that Jesus was looking for figs because he was hungry. That is omitted as well. So we have Matthew re-shaping some of the aspects of the tale here. Jesus is no longer hungry. And he doesn’t go looking for figs in the spring when anyone with half a brain knows that figs don’t ripen until the summer/fall. I’m not going to wander into an apple orchard in April and expect to find apples; why on earth would Jesus expect to find figs? Then, when he doesn’t find them, he curses the tree and causes it to wither. No, all of these are rather unseemly behaviours from the divine son of God. Divine beings don’t get hungry; they don’t expect fruit to be ripe in the spring; and they don’t curse a tree because it hasn’t defied nature and produced fruit out of season. All of these are just things that the Messiah should not do. So Jesus doesn’t do any of them in Matthew’s version of the story.

Given this, we could ask why Matthew includes the story at all. There is probably no good answer for that. The main thing seems to be because, overall, Matthew is loathe to jettison anything that Mark has produced. There are a few things, like Jesus’ first healing of the man with the withered hand in the synagogue in Caphernaum, which was Jesus’ first real public act in Mark. And there are a few others, but very few others. Matthew used something like 80 or 90% of Mark’s content. This, I think, provides some useful insight into the power of Mark’s narrative, and the effect it had on the followers of Jesus. The reluctance to remove things indicates that Mark’s story was pretty well known, and that things could not be omitted without very good reason. In turn, I believe, this helps explain why Matthew felt another gospel was necessary. Mark gave us the events, but his Jesus was all-too-human; he was not decisively divine. He did things like get hungry and curse trees for not bearing fruit out of season–after he went looking for fruit at the wrong time of the year. Matthew had to smooth out some of those aspects of Jesus’ nature. A human Jesus was no longer appropriate for the more elevated status that Jesus had taken, and so Matthew had to address that problem and remove the doubts about who–and what–Jesus was.

This latter question is amply demonstrated by the fate of the tree. And here, too, Matthew differs slightly from Mark. The former has, once again, compressed Mark’s narrative, compacting it into a shorter time-sequence. In the original, Jesus cursed the tree in the morning. Then, when they return to Bethany in the evening, only then do they see that the tree has withered. Here, it happens instantaneously. This is an ample demonstration of Jesus’ sheer power: he can cause a tree to wither and die simply by saying the word. The question then becomes, if Matthew wishes to downplay the miraculous element of Jesus’ ministry, why emphasize it in this way? It’s really difficult to answer this with any degree of certainty, or even to propose a semi-reasonable theory. I suspect it has something to do with the reasons why Matthew is very reluctant to flat-out omit anything in Mark. Given that he has to include the story, he chooses to compress the time frame, which means emphasizing Jesus’ power to a certain degree. 

But the power isn’t just power for its own sake. Rather, it leads to what is nowadays called a teachable moment. Amazing as the display of power is, however, this is something available to all of us, if we but have faith. And here, perhaps, is the crux of the problem that Matthew has with Jesus’ miracles. Now, we perhaps court danger by taking Jesus’ words literally, that we actually, in the real, physical world, can actually move a mountain. Is this, truly, a description of reality? Or is it simply hyperbole, an exaggeration meant to make a point? I think the answer is “yes”. It’s both of these things. I think there was a sense in which this was taken seriously and literally, but in a very spiritual sense. This is, after all, part of what the essence of a religion is, the idea that while we take it on the mundane plane, but simultaneously project it into spiritual Truth, which is to say a symbol of something beyond. In all hagiographical literature, starting with Acts, one thing that the saints all do is suspend the laws of nature. In fact, this is one of the criteria the Catholics use to for canonization: whether the candidate can be credited with actual miracles.

18 Mane autem revertens in civitatem, esuriit.

19 Et videns fici arborem unam secus viam, venit ad eam; et nihil invenit in ea nisi folia tantum et ait illi: “Numquam ex te fructus nascatur in sempiternum”. Et arefacta est continuo ficulnea.

20 Et videntes discipuli mirati sunt dicentes: “Quomodo continuo aruit ficulnea?”.

21 Respondens autem Iesus ait eis: “Amen dico vobis: Si habueritis fidem et non haesitaveritis, non solum de ficulnea facietis, sed et si monti huic dixeritis: “Tolle et iacta te in mare”, fiet.

22 Et omnia, quaecumque petieritis in oratione credentes, accipietis”.

23 Καὶ ἐλθόντος αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν προσῆλθον αὐτῷ διδάσκοντι οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι τοῦ λαοῦ λέγοντες, Ἐν ποίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ ταῦτα ποιεῖς; καὶ τίς σοι ἔδωκεν τὴν ἐξουσίαν ταύτην;

And they having come to the Temple, they came to him teaching the high priests and the elders of the people saying, “In what sort of authority do you do these things? And who to you gave this authority?” 

First, there does not seem to be a serious conflict here. Yes, there is an edge of tension, the high priests and elders are a bit defensive. Recall, however, that, supposedly, the day before, this man came in and knocked over tables and chairs and put a damper on the commercial activity that benefitted these same priests. With all that, it seems that they should be more than a bit miffed. It seems more likely that they would have had Jesus arrested on sight. Or, it seems like he should have been arrested the day before, when he had perpetrated the acts. And the line about “being afraid of the uproar of the people” doesn’t really ring true when we consider that Jesus caused so much commotion. I suspect that a lot of those attending the festival may have applauded Jesus’ arrest for disturbing the peace in such a raucous manner. After all, they were there to perform the requisite sacrifice, and Jesus was preventing them from doing this. I suppose that it may have been one thing to have the Temple guards carry him off, and quite another to have the Romans come in and do it. Were there Temple guards? Given the high level of commercial activity, one has to believe there had to be, especially since the presence of pagans in the Temple was problematic at best.

So, all in all, the probability that the whole cleansing of the Temple actually happened seems to be pretty low. So how did the story start? And how did it gain credibility? As we saw with Albert Schweitzer, there is a strong compulsion to believe that Jesus did something to warrant being arrested and executed. EP Sandars has posited this as the most likely reason this happened. And there is a certain appeal of logic to this; but just because we want it to be so doesn’t make it so. We have to go back to Paul: either he didn’t know, or he knew and didn’t tell us. And if he knew and didn’t tell us, he either thought it was irrelevant or embarrassing. So that is three possibilities; two of them indicate that the reason was trivial. If Paul didn’t know, chances are the cause had been something non-momentous, something pretty low-level, like spitting on the sidewalk. Or, if Paul knew and thought it was trivial, this comes to much the same thing as not knowing. In either case, the motive for Jesus’ arrest simply didn’t amount to much worth recounting. That is, he was executed for spitting on the sidewalk. And let’s recall that the gospels really don’t point to anything as the cause, either. Oh, they insinuate the jealousy of the high priests, and the Pharisees, and several other groups, and they pin it, ultimately, on Joseph Caiaphas because he thought Jesus was a problem. For whatever reason.

All this vagueness and innuendo, all of it points to a reason that was not particularly noteworthy. No one knew because the reason was so minor. It never made the headlines. It just wasn’t talked about because it didn’t seem to be a big deal at the time. It only became one when Jesus was raised from the dead. But even then, the reason Jesus was executed wasn’t important enough for Paul to give us an explanation, or even mention it. Because it didn’t matter. All of this indicates, I believe, that the reason Jesus was executed had little or nothing to do with his ministry.

I say this because the way the question is framed, it has a very theoretical feel to it. And that is–Spoiler Alert!–borne out in subsequent verses. But let’s stop a minute to let the question sink in: by whose authority? Who gave the authority? Those are interesting, but most interesting is “to do the things that you do?” Note that this isn’t about the things he’s done, or that he did. Coming the day after the Cleansing of the Temple, one would expect this to be “who gave you the authority to do what you did?” That is much more specific. The vagueness with which the question is framed, I think, is additional proof that the episode of the Temple cleansing did not really happen. The question is much better suited to sort of a debate in the synagogue. As for the authority, let’s read on.

23 Et cum venisset in templum, accesserunt ad eum docentem principes sacerdotum et seniores populi dicentes: “In qua potestate haec facis? Et quis tibi dedit hanc potestatem?”.

24 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἐρωτήσω ὑμᾶς κἀγὼ λόγον ἕνα, ὃν ἐὰν εἴπητέ μοι κἀγὼ ὑμῖν ἐρῶ ἐν ποίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ ταῦτα ποιῶ:

25 τὸ βάπτισμα τὸ Ἰωάννου πόθεν ἦν; ἐξ οὐρανοῦ ἢ ἐξ ἀνθρώπων; οἱ δὲ διελογίζοντο ἐν ἑαυτοῖς λέγοντες, Ἐὰν εἴπωμεν, Ἐξ οὐρανοῦ, ἐρεῖ ἡμῖν, Διὰ τί οὖν οὐκ ἐπιστεύσατε αὐτῷ;

26 ἐὰν δὲ εἴπωμεν, Ἐξ ἀνθρώπων, φοβούμεθα τὸν ὄχλον, πάντες γὰρ ὡς προφήτην ἔχουσιν τὸν Ἰωάννην.

27 καὶ ἀποκριθέντες τῷ Ἰησοῦ εἶπαν, Οὐκ οἴδαμεν. ἔφη αὐτοῖς καὶ αὐτός, Οὐδὲ ἐγὼ λέγω ὑμῖν ἐν ποίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ ταῦτα ποιῶ.

Answering, Jesus said to them, “I will ask you and I will give one reason, which if you answer me and I will answer in which authority these things I do. (25) The baptism of John from whence (did it come)? From the sky or from men?” They conferred amongst themselves, saying, “If we say from the sky, you will say to us ‘through what therefore did you not believe him?’ (26) If we say from men, we fear the crowd, for all as a prophet hold John. (27) And answering to Jesus they said, “We do not know”. And he said to them, “I will not say to you in which authority these things I do”.

The first point is relatively minor, but it’s worth noting. Matthew almost always pluralizes it to “the heavens”. Mark, OTOH, used the singular form, which could be–perhaps should be–translated as “the sky”. Most translations render it as ‘heaven’, with a lower case ‘h’. It’s just the sort of thing with which to be careful. “Heaven”, even in lower case, is a very loaded word for us. In the ancient world there was a general sense that god/God did live in the sky, and that is present in the meaning of the word Mark and Matthew use. Even so, ‘heaven’ has too many connotations of Pearly Gates and angels playing harps. It should be avoided. Maybe “the celestial realm”?

The next item is the mention of fear of crowd. This was given as a reason why the high priests had to be wary about having Jesus arrested. They were afraid that the Festival crowd, which was often unruly at best, would find this to be an outrage, and so would provoke a riot. Supposedly this is why Jesus wasn’t arrested when he cleared the Temple. Bear in mind, however, that this is exactly what they ultimately did according to the story. They arrested Jesus and had him executed just as the Festival was ready to begin. And yet, there was no riot, nor any disturbance at all, really. The execution happened, and everyone went about their business. Josephus mentioned nothing especially noteworthy, just that there was a pervasive tension in the city during the Festival in general.

With those issues out of the way, we can get to the main ideas presented. These are, the importance of John, that he was a prophet, and that at least some thought that he had the sanction of heaven, even if he wasn’t divine himself. Of course, being a prophet entails having the blessing and the direction of heaven. That’s what makes someone a prophet. Of course, bystanders and onlookers were told by the disciples that Jesus was a prophet as he was entering Jerusalem on (what came to be called) Palm Sunday. Is this a coincidence, that the two of them are labeled prophets within such a short stretch of text? What is doubly interesting about this double use off the term is that Mark does not say that Jesus was called a prophet, except in the run-up to the Transfiguration, just prior to Peter’s proclamation, when Mark reports that “others” are saying that Jesus is a prophet. So, on the one hand, we have Matthew adding to Mark by making sure we know that Jesus is divine, but on the other we have Matthew confusing the issue by having called Jesus a prophet during the triumphal entry. Or was that designation designed to imply that not all of Jesus’ followers quite grasped Jesus’ identity?

This is neither an idle nor a rhetorical question. Rather, it has to do with the overall scope and plan of this gospel. As mentioned repeatedly, Matthew’s handling of the Q material in the Sermon on the Mount is called “masterful”, among other glowing adjectives. My problem is, how do we reconcile this masterful plan with issues like “editorial fatigue”, in which he loses track of what he’s saying, changing verb tenses or the number and/or person of the main verb, or just generally muddles what are two separate versions of the story; he started out changing Mark, but half-way through he lost his train of thought and went back to copying verbatim–more or less. Frankly, these seem to be pretty much incompatible traits. 

The point? This is a great demonstration of how badly scholars want Luke and Matthew to be independent sources. That would mean that Q has to be real. That is the point. Why? With Q we can cling to the chance, however small, that something in Matthew or Luke goes back to Jesus. That is the goal. With Luke dependent on Matthew, then Q becomes unnecessary, and highly improbable. So we have to invent this genius of Matthew so that Luke’s treatment of the Q material becomes substandard, and so Luke could not have possibly read Matthew’s “masterful” handling of the Q material. So things like this, in which Matthew shows himself to be internally inconsistent, or at least less-than-thorough, are very damaging to the “masterful” skill of Matthew as an editor. 

That’s why I’m so insistent on bringing them to the fore.

As a final note, let’s take a step back and think about what actually happened in this narrative, about the actual exchange that Matthew reports as having occurred between Jesus and his interlocutors. On the one hand, there’s an aroma of “too clever by half” wafting about it, the sort of witty exchange that most people only think of ten minutes later. On the other, it’s not at all impossible that something like this truly did happen, in whatever attenuated or altered form. One aspect that strikes me as very real is the ambivalence of the Temple authorities towards John. Generally in such circumstances, the reverence for John’s holiness would have increased as the time of his death receded into the past. As someone recently executed, it would be difficult for anyone in a position of authority to admit to too much admiration for an enemy of the state. But, with the passing of time, as passions about John cooled, and as his followers drifted off to follow others, the danger would diminish and it would be more acceptable to talk about John with approval.  Given that the high priests are willing to admit that it was possible that John had the sanction of heaven, we would suppose that some time had passed since John’s death. Neither gospel is particularly clear on when this happened; only that John was arrested at some point early in Jesus’ ministry, seemingly fairly shortly after Jesus had been baptized by John.

Now, while doing some routine checking of sources to see if there was any evidence to indicate when John might have died, I came across something that really messes with the whole chronology of Jesus’ ministry and death. Josephus pretty much agrees with the gospels that John was executed because he disapproved of Herod Antipas’ (0r Antipater) marriage to Herodias, who had been married to Antipas’ brother, who was, conveniently, also named Herod. The brother is referred to as Herod II. The problem arises when we note that Antipas married Herodias sometime around 34 CE. So that provides a terminus post quem for John’s execution. That is, if Jesus was executed after John, then Jesus’ death had to occur sometime between 34 and 36 CE. The latter date is when Antipas was defeated by the father of the wife Antipas divorced to marry Herodias. Josephus tells us that many Jews considered Antipas’ defeat to be God’s way of punishing Antipas for having executed John. 

However, Jesus was traditionally executed sometime before this; the traditional date is somewhere around 33, based on Luke’s chronology. And, most scholarship sort of assumes that Jesus’ death occurred earlier in the decade than the period 34-36. If John wasn’t executed until, say, 35, then Jesus’ death more likely happened in the last half of the decade. There would be all sorts of implications to be derived from this. This question is far outside the scope of the task at hand; but what I find absolutely astonishing is that I’ve never come across this in any of the books I’ve been reading about Jesus, his death, etc. This is kind of a big deal, but NT scholarship is largely silent on the matter, despite it being readily available on Wikipedia. Pilate’s term of office ended in 36; Jesus, presumably was killed before that; the new chronology need not affect the date of Jesus’ death, but it does have serious ramifications for the relationship of John and Jesus. Much as I’d like to hash this out now, I really need to leave it. Suffice it to say that one possibility is that this exchange took place later in the decade, after Jesus was also dead. Perhaps this conversation took place between the high priests and James, brother of the lord.

24 Respondens autem Iesus dixit illis: “ Interrogabo vos et ego unum sermonem, quem si dixeritis mihi, et ego vobis dicam, in qua potestate haec facio:

25 Baptismum Ioannis unde erat? A caelo an ex hominibus? ”. At illi cogitabant inter se dicentes: “ Si dixerimus: “E caelo”, dicet nobis: “Quare ergo non credidistis illi?”;

26 si autem dixerimus: “Ex hominibus”, timemus turbam; omnes enim habent Ioannem sicut prophetam”.

27 Et respondentes Iesu dixerunt: “Nescimus”. Ait illis et ipse: “Nec ego dico vobis in qua potestate haec facio”.

28 Τί δὲ ὑμῖν δοκεῖ; ἄνθρωπος εἶχεν τέκνα δύο. καὶ προσελθὼν τῷ πρώτῳ εἶπεν, Τέκνον, ὕπαγε σήμερον ἐργάζου ἐν τῷ ἀμπελῶνι.

29 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν, Οὐ θέλω, ὕστερον δὲ μεταμεληθεὶς ἀπῆλθεν.

30 προσελθὼν δὲ τῷ ἑτέρῳ εἶπεν ὡσαύτως. ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν, Ἐγώ, κύριε: καὶ οὐκ ἀπῆλθεν.

31 τίς ἐκ τῶν δύο ἐποίησεν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πατρός; λέγουσιν, Ὁ πρῶτος. λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οἱ τελῶναι καὶ αἱ πόρναι προάγουσιν ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

32 ἦλθεν γὰρ Ἰωάννης πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐν ὁδῷ δικαιοσύνης, καὶ οὐκ ἐπιστεύσατε αὐτῷ: οἱ δὲ τελῶναι καὶ αἱ πόρναι ἐπίστευσαν αὐτῷ: ὑμεῖς δὲ ἰδόντες οὐδὲ μετεμελήθητε ὕστερον τοῦ πιστεῦσαι αὐτῷ.

“How does this seem to you? A man has two sons. And going to the first/oldest he says, ‘Son, get up today and go work in the vineyard’. (29) But he (the son) answering says, ‘I don’t want to’. Later, having had a change of intent, he went.

(30) “Going to the other, he (the father) spoke in the same way. He (the son) answering, said, ‘I (will go), lord’. And he did not go.

(31) “Which of the two did the will of the father?” They said, “The first”. Jesus said to them, “Amen I say to you, that the tax collectors and the prostitutes will precede you into the kingdom of God. (32) For John came to you on the road of righteousness, and you did not believe him. The tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. You seeing did not repent later of your faith in him”.

This whole thing is another pagans superseding Jews story, I think. Or is it? The parable is not in Mark, so it almost certainly doesn’t date back to Jesus. Otherwise, I might have been tempted to see this as an early version of the superseding process; but, rather than pagans superseding Jews, it was the sinners superseding the righteous. But that theme seems a bit too primitive; by this point in the development of Christian doctrine, one would expect to be passed that point and onto the pagans. After all, I’ve been talking about this for pretty much the whole of Matthew, and a good chunk of Mark as well. So the theme gives me pause. One possible solution that comes to mind is that the actor in the story is not Jesus, but perhaps James; however, I’m not sure that really fits, either. Without any of these other features, we’re kind of left with taking the story at face value: it was meant to inform us that the uptight righteous folk are out on their ear, while the sinners have the key to the front door.

And as I’ve been learning more about Judaism, and in particular the content of the HS, I’ve been finding that more and more of what I thought were “Christian” traits are actually a big part of the morality and social message of the HS. The distinction between Christian and Judaic morality is not very distinct. There is one thing, however, that does set the message of Jesus apart from that of the HS. It’s the message of inclusion; or, really, the message of “the last shall be first”, the idea that Jesus came for the sinners and not The Holy. This is driven home most effectively, I think, by the story of the Prodigal Son. Above all others, I think, that one summarizes the message of Jesus. And this parable is part of that progression. It’s not the high priests that are doing the will of the father, by saying “yes” but doing “no”. Rather, it’s those who rebel at first, but later have a change of heart, or a change of will, or a change of mind.

So, probably nothing exactly earth-shattering here. This is most likely a story made up some time after Jesus died. Perhaps James had something to do with it, perhaps not. But it was made up, I think, fully consistent with many of the principles that I think do date back to Jesus: the welcoming of the sinners, the idea of personal–rather than corporate which was the Jewish norm as the Chosen People–repentance, the idea that a doctor is not needed by the healthy, but by the sick. At the moment, I think that is the crux of Jesus’ message, the aspect of Jesus message that made him stand out from the others, what set him apart from John’s message of repentance. It’s impossible to know for sure, but my conception is that John’s message was conventional to a large degree; that of Jesus wasn’t. But this gets tricky. Think back to John baptizing; the “brood of vipers” analogy is not in Mark; it was added later. Theoretically, this would imply that Jesus’ message may not have been directed quite so directly at the sinners at the outset, but that it had become so by the time Matthew wrote. This being the case, it’s tempting to see the hand of James again, as someone concerned with the poor, and by extension the unwanted, the outcast, the sinners. Perhaps this latter part of the message only came after James, which is an interesting thought and topic for speculation. But probably no more. 

Regardless, this concern for sinners was truly a novel message, one that set this group apart from pretty much all the others. With this message, the new religion could–and did–appeal to a wide range of people, and so to a lot of people.

28 “Quid autem vobis videtur? Homo quidam habebat duos filios. Et accedens ad primum dixit: “Fili, vade hodie, operare in vinea”.

29 Ille autem respondens ait: “Nolo”; postea autem paenitentia motus abiit.

30 Accedens autem ad alterum dixit similiter. At ille respondens ait: “Eo, domine”; et non ivit.

31 Quis ex duobus fecit voluntatem patris? ”. Dicunt: “Primus”. Dicit illis Iesus: “ Amen dico vobis: Publicani et meretrices praecedunt vos in regnum Dei.

32 Venit enim ad vos Ioannes in via iustitiae, et non credidistis ei; publicani autem et meretrices crediderunt ei. Vos autem videntes nec paenitentiam habuistis postea, ut crederetis ei.

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About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on March 8, 2016, in Chapter 21, gospel commentary, gospels, Matthew's Gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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